Sunday, January 17, 2010

Myths and Misconceptions

so, the MOST important thing for anyone to know about adoption, is that chances are, you don't know anything. i was surprised to find, when i first set foot into the world of adoption, how inaccurate most of my notions of adoption were! and in my conversations with people from many varying levels of education and experience on the matter i have encountered some shocking ideas! i try to cut folx some slack knowing i was once so unenlightened. also, given the rapid and dramatic evolution adoption has undergone, even in MY lifetime, as well as the media's love for horror stories and worst case scenarios, it isn't any wonder that many have outdated or fearful thoughts on the matter.
to people in the adoption family, these things are sacred. to have something SO beautiful and so much a part of who we are and what we love misunderstood can feel like the sharpest dagger to the most tender part of the heart. (and some of us can get pretty feisty)
SO, this week I'm going to feature some of the most common and most harmful myths and misconceptions. Birth mamas, adoptive parents, and adoptees feel free to add some of your (least) favorites as well as add you commentary to the ones listed.

"Birthparents don't want their babies"

i saved the worst for first! I'm not kiddin, it hurt my chest to write that!
i have not met this birthmom.
abortion is ever more available, affordable, and acceptable. the woman who can't be bothered to raise a child, i would think would take this route.
i wanted Justin more than ANYTHING I'd EVER wanted! it took me MONTHS to get over myself! the only thing i wanted more than to have his hand always in mine was for him to have all that could be his!
adoption is rarely a birthmother's plan A. to come to and through this choice, we must break our own hearts, defy our very instinct! NEVER believe that it is anything other than the love of our children that could enable us to do this impossible thing!

"a woman chooses adoption in order to have the chance to finish growing up, pursue their education, etc."

while this IS a benefit of choosing adoption, it is NOT a reason to.
I'm blessed by the many experiences and opportunities I've had to live the young single adult life. college, roommates, dating. i can spend my time and money however i choose. all of these things are greatly hindered for a single mom. but i tell you, without hesitation, i would give it ALL back! he means so much more to me than ANY of it! I was not my reason. HE was. i was totally prepared to put my WHOLE WORLD on the alter to keep him with me. but i couldn't sacrifice his.

"a birth mother can move on"

this is true and false.
i have progressed. I've had healing. my priorities and focuses have evolved. where, in the beginning, i thought of little else, my world is now full of other interests and pursuits.
while this isn't my whole identity, it's still a big chunk. and that's ok. it's awesome in fact. i will think about Justin and his family everyday of my life. and it brings me joy, not pain.
for 9 months we shared our food, water, blood, and oxygen! he is flesh of my own flesh! bone of my bone! i will NEVER be "over it". and i don't wanna be. i will never put them away in a box in the closet. this story is my FAVORITE story! about my favorite people! it will bless me all my days!

"if i choose adoption....I'll be broken"

this was one of mine. it's also true and false. it was fully my expectation at the time i made my choice that i would function around a broken heart for the rest of my life, like an emotional limp. my choice did brake my heart, to be sure. my arms ached for him. my chest hurt. it felt my air went with him. i had longed, i had missed, I'd felt loss, but never like this. to write of it now i can still feel the memory of it. i had lost a child. and i felt it. not just for a few days or weeks or months. i felt sorrow and grief for the first few years and occasionally even still. i have to say though, there was peace and sweetness to temper the bitter aching from the very start. but as time passed it began to be intermingled with more and more gratitude, peace, joy, until i rarely hurt anymore. i feel deeply when i tell my story but when i cry, don't feel sorry for me! my tears are the gratitude my words can't express! Justin stopped by on his way home and saved me. he was my missionary! my love for him was the only motivation sufficient to make me change. had God not blessed me with these most difficult trials, I'd still be locked up in anger and pain and darkness, my view so narrow. and i wouldn't know love. I'm not back to how i was before. I'm SO much better! I'm not broken. I'm mended! somehow, my greatest loss has been more than adequately compensated for. that's nothin but a miracle!

"people who choose adoption are very young, have drug problems, are very poor, and have very unstable lifestyles"

i wish this WERE true but as a result of these instabilities, in my observation, such women generally lack the clarity and presence of mind to choose adoption. on the contrary, I've seen conscientious, selfless, responsible people who, for those qualities, would make the best parents (in fact by putting their child's needs above their own, that's just what they're being).
while women of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and circumstances have chosen adoption, the average age is 22. a young girl's frontal lobe is not fully developed and she often won't have a very clear sense of the reality of tomorrow or the needs of another person outside of herself. so she's going mainly on instinct, which of course dictates that she does not separate from her offspring. even at 18 it was nothing short of divine intervention that got me to, and through the decision. that said, i have known girls, young as 12, wise beyond their years and they are my heroes!
one of my many resistances to the idea of adoption was that i thought i didn't fit the bill. i thought adoption was for "those girls", the ones who would clearly be terrible parents. but i knew i was a good person, i would be a good mom. i thought, if you CAN raise your child, you do. i now know, it's a matter of good, better, best.

"adopted kids are always screwed up, if you place for adoption, your baby will be too"

i think it's funny now that i actually worried about this. there are several factors playing into this misconception. one is that people don't make the distinction between foster, international, and birthparent or infant adoptions. which is not at all to say that children adopted through the state or internationally WILL be "screwed up" but it certainly comes with a different set of challenges. the study I've seen showed that children adopted within the first 6 months of life (barring any abuse or neglect) showed no negative repercussions as a result of having been adopted. when compared to their peers they did as well or better in areas of academics, behavior, identity, or feelings of belonging. then when compared to those raised by single, biological parents the gap widens.
i think another factor is, yet again, the influence of the past. in the "dark ages of adoption" there was no openness, no information, no communication from a birthparent, and there was alot of shame and secrecy. we've learned from these mistakes and we now see that those things contributed to feelings of abandonment and inferiority. in this day of open, real, working relationships between birth and adoptive families, a child knows they came from love to love. they were not unwanted. they have EXTRA family who cherish them. there are no gaps in their identity. this is something that makes them special. we don't whisper about adoption anymore. there is nothing to hide!
furthermore, you cannot imagine the screening and procedures a couple goes through to adopt these days. and infertility can be quite the refiners fire. i think these folx are the cream of the crop! and after their work and wait and worry, and knowing the sacrifice it came from, they don't take parenthood lightly and they don't take their children for granted.

"the birthmom might try to take back the baby"

this is the stuff of Lifetime-made for TV-movies.
in GA i had 2 weeks after placement to change my mind. this added to my hell. i know some states allow up to 6 months. in UT the moment relinquishment has been signed it is already binding. even where it's possible, it is rare that a mother will change her mind after placement. adoption is not something that a person chooses half hearted or on a whim. my thoughts, while feeling that crushing loss, were that i would NEVER want them (his parents) to feel it. knowing what i knew, that that family was his, that they were better, even than my best, that THAT was the life that he was SUPPOSED to have, how could i take it away from him.
and again, things are not what they once were. if I'd chosen adoption because of social, religious, or family pressure instead of my own conviction that it was right for us. if i never held him or said goodbye. if i had to wake up every morning wondering where he was, with who, does he get enough kisses, is he fed well, etc. under these circumstances i can see how a person would have no peace and I'm certain i would have lost my mind. but this is NOT adoption today. as a birthmom sees the family she helped create, sees her baby laugh, sees the love his parents have for him, her decision is confirmed and solidified.

"no parent can love a child like their biological mother"

the instant i first saw him....words fail. i recognized immediately that i had never felt love before that moment. i felt my heart grow inside of my chest. i would've given my right arm for him, i'd've stepped infront of a bus for him. there was NOTHING i wouldn't have done for him. the world stopped....for moments while i tried to understand how he could be real. i recognized him. that moment is preserved in my heart. i feel it now as i shed even more grateful tears.
i regret i wasn't there the first time Debbie saw her Justin (but my heart still melts at the thought of it). i have NO doubt that HER heart grew! that SHE knew him! that HER gratitude has spilled out through her tears for 13 years. she IS giving her life for him! day by day.
while the the blood we share is real and significant, it is not as real and as significant as is the sealing covenant. and biology does not have to exist for genuine family love to. i know that they COULD not love him more if he had their genes. i believe he was theirs before he was mine.

  • "placing for adoption is 'the easy way out'" or "she should be made to face the consequences of her choices."

    someone please tell me HOW the choice i made was easy?! it took all i had, no, MORE than i had! it was the most difficult and painful thing i've endured, and i CHOSE to endure it.
    my mama has said that adoption is the hardest choice to make but the easiest to live with. not to suggest that the pain associated with the loss of a child is short lived, but we have our peace of mind. we can see the fruits of our sacrifice and they compensate for our hurt. people are told that abortion will be an easy way out but it is a lie. easy choice to make, incredibly difficult choice to live with. there is no consequence-free escape route.
    did i make a very bad choice? yes. did my Justin? no. a human being is not to be used as an object lesson! should HE have to pay the consequences for my poor choice? no way!
    i certainly did not evade consequence, nor did i evade my responsibility to provide for my child, whatever the personal cost.

  •  i once heard a set of parents express that they wanted their daughter to parent because if she placed, it would be too easy and she'd only do it again. the scenario they thought would help her be more responsible was that she (they) would raise the child. the truth is that women who choose adoption are LESS likely to conceive again out of wedlock. they also receive higher education and better employment and are less likely to live in poverty

    "well at least you didn't have an abortion". 

    firstly adoption isn't an "at least" situation. it's not just "better than" a horrible alternative. it's the BEST for my child. secondly, abortion was never on the table for me. and while it does happen, i've only known 3 women out of literally hundreds who changed their mind from abortion to adoption. they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. one seeks to evade consequences for self and the other chooses greater pain and difficulty for self to minimize that of the child. in my observation it is typically a choice between abortion and parenting or parenting and adoption. we don't choose adoption because we couldn't be bothered to parent. 

    (these are my own views and commentaries. i only represent myself in these statements. opinions may very, even among my adoption peers)